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Doldrums

 

We had a very busy week. In the first part we celebrated Angie’s birthday. Then today we had a birthday party for our grandson Paul. It was his first birthday! We’ve had several back to back and now we are about to enter a period of time with less known events. I call them the doldrums. Those days, weeks and months that seem to be non-eventful where we often feel like something is wrong.

We all have the doldrums. When you’re young you are lead to believe that life is all about the party, the promotion and the proposal. When you’re immature you think that there has to be an event or life isn’t worth living. You go through the week looking forward to a certain television show. Maybe there is a sporting event that brings life back into you. The thrill of the hunt seems to be an excitement some live for. Perhaps there are musicians you admire and you long for a live concert in your area. All of these things seem to be life’s destinations, and yet they are merely flashes of the yellow line in the middle of the road. They mean nothing.

I have done a lot of driving in my life and it took me a long time to really enjoy the trip. Like most men it was all about conquering for me. My goal was to get there! Men are usually task oriented. When I went to the store with my wife I’d ask what we were there for. If it was orange-juice I knew exactly how to get it and was ready to leave. To my surprise, it was never about orange-juice. We were there to shop and orange-juice was just one thing we needed. The road trips were the same way. As a man I just wanted to get there. If we were making good time in traffic and someone had to use the bathroom it would have to wait. Press-on!

But I learned that life’s big events are not the purpose of living. We spend thousands of days in between the dozen major events that fill in living the eighty or ninety years here. There has to be another reason God placed us here.

When you stare at the vast expanse of space in the night doesn’t it make you wonder why it’s there? I was raised in a very small town. Our school had grades one through twelve on the same campus. There were two buildings-grades one through six and seven through twelve. My graduating class had less than a hundred students. The community was in the bend of a river and I really thought that was where the world ended. After I learned to drive I went over the river one day and felt like a foreigner in another country. I actually got onto the interstate highway one day and got off at the next exit because I felt like I was doing something wrong. The world was bigger than I realized.

Living your life without realizing things should be going on is like living in the bubble I was in. You get up and do exactly the same thing that you did yesterday. You talk to the same people. You say the same things. And, you are still waiting on that event to happen. You live your life wondering why God hasn’t changed it.

In the Old Testament we discover that God’s chosen people,Israel, were 400 years in slavery. Day after day must have been extremely bad for them. Yet, when God finally did deliver them they were so spoiled to change that they wanted to go back to Egypt. They wanted things handed out to them for nothing. They had lived all that time in bondage and doldrums and still desired to go back to Egypt because God required them to do something.

The truth is we are all a little spoiled. We like our safe, boring lives. We don’t want to do the things we really should in order to change it. Many years ago, I heard my wife tell the children something. She said, “people always do what they want to do”. I balked about it at first but each time she said it I thought a little more. Now I realize; we really do exactly what we want to do. Do you know why God’s people were in bondage 400 years? It’s because they did what they wanted to do earlier. That’s right, due to their disobedience God promised Abraham that they would be taken in bondage for 400 years  (Gen 15:13). I’m always amazed to find someone whose marriage fell apart and they still have no clue why. The man thought that because he went to work everyday and took out the garbage she couldn’t possibly be dissatisfied. She thought that because she was doing wifey things he couldn’t possibly complain.

Are we really so narrow minded to think that life is all about us? We are told that in the last days that dangerous times will come. In Second Timothy chapter three Paul said that men will be lovers of themselves (v2). I get so irritated when I ask someone to do something and they ask “what is in it for me?” They may not ask verbally but they often say it with their questioning. “How long will it take? What will I gain? Can I have it recorded so that later I can bring it back to your attention how good I am?”

Our carnal nature just wants the most pleasure for the minimum effort. We are all inherently lazy. If you give a wise person a share of stock they will save it or add to it. A wise person knows that something of value is not to be squandered. He knows that with time it becomes more valuable. Give a fool a share of stock and he will sell it that day and see how much wine he can buy. When we are wise we learn that anything of value takes time and effort.

I want to take us to a passage that is rarely preached on today. In Matthew 5:41Jesus is teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He spoke something here that would have been obvious to the crowd listening but not so obvious to you and me in the twenty-first century. It was a law of that day that if a Roman had a burden to carry they could ask a non-Roman to carry it for one mile. They were required to do it for that distance and then the citizen could find another person. Jesus stated that His people should carry the load a second mile. Jesus was saying that Christians are obligated to do more than the world expects of us.

The wife who does minimal duties is not living up to Jesus’ standards. The husband who only does what he thinks he has to do to stay married is not doing what God wants. When we do the minimum we are just like everyone else in the world. God’s people are supposed to do more.

Let me ask you this. When you find yourself in a boring part of life where nothing is going on do you find time for God? When you are in between projects and find time on your hands do you catch up on sleep? When you finish school do you imagine that the learning is over? Just because there are doldrums in your life it doesn’t mean you’ve done your part.

As I mentioned above, we had several birthdays in the past few weeks. I came home today to find more to do. The lawnmower is broken. The shop is a mess from the recent woodworking. The sheep and goats are doing their Houdini impersonations again-getting out of a locked area. The grass is getting high around the mailbox. On and on there is a list of things to do. I could do the minimum of going to work forty hours and feel like I can watch television when I get home. I could talk about how bored I was and mope around. But I’ve learned differently.

You see, when we aren’t going the second mile God always allows us to see that we had it pretty good. Just read scripture. Those who believed it was too hard to live righteously just found the life of unrighteousness even harder. I have watched people quit tasks because they were difficult only to find the next one harder. A man who want fix his roof when it rains will discover that he is forced to do that plus fix his floor later. A man who doesn’t change the oil in his car because he is too tired discovers that paying for a two-thousand dollar engine is even harder.

What does it do when we go the second mile? We live out a testimony to the world that God’s people are servants. We show them the character of Jesus. It was He who washed His disciple’s feet and told them to do likewise. If we are servants we understand that when we go the second mile there are no doldrums. In doing God’s will we have no time to get into trouble. The Bible is full of do’s and don’ts. If you are doing the do’s there isn’t time for the don’ts!

Let me ask you something friend. When is the last time that you did something so unselfishly that you knew you’d never get recognition or reward? This is the heart of God’s people. They give cheerfully, they serve faithfully and they go the extra distance. As employees they are the most diligent. As merchants they are known to be the most honest. As husbands and wives they are known to be the most sacrificing for each other. If we are doing our part we will be known as His children.  We will love our enemies and do good to those who use us.

There is never wasted time on God’s part. He is always at work on our behalf. Can you say the same thing about your part? When you’ve run out of things to accomplish do you spend time in prayer? Do you shirk tasks He sends your way? When you see someone in need do you stop to judge them and decide if they are worthy?

Friends, we should never run out of things to do. If you ever do, call me and I will send some prayer requests your way. J

Prayer-Father, help us to understand that we are to stay busy. When we find ourselves feeling bored allow us to see all that is at our hand to do. Give us a servants heart today and make us more like Jesus. Remind us to go the extra mile.

In Jesus’ Name–Amen

 

 

paul

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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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One Response to "Doldrums"

  1. Vicki says:

    Hi Paul, Thank you for sharing your story and you are truly a blessing from God. It always hits home on my heart no matter what if I’m busy or do have some time to myself, always asking the Lord for direction & my decisions & always hope I am always doing the right thing. As it is stated in the Bible that we are not to be idle. So especially when there are certain times like that, I always try to think of more things to do especially want to volunteer more. May God continue to bless you & your work.

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